Downing: Reds can finish on a high
Liverpool winger Stewart Downing believes the side are starting to click into gear and while it may be just a little too late to snatch a Champions League place he is confident they can still finish the season on a high.
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The 4-0 demolition of Wigan at the DW Stadium came courtesy of a Luis Suarez hat-trick after Downing's second-minute header but there were other elements of the performance which impressed.
Since taking over in the summer manager Brendan Rodgers has spent his time trying to ingrain a new way of playing into the side, although he admits he will still require a number of transfer windows to bring the best out of his methods.
But the ease with which £8.5million January signing Philippe Coutinho seamlessly fitted in on only his third appearance - providing assists for the first two goals - suggests Rodgers' plan is working.
And despite their frequent difficulties in finishing off their dominance in possession results are starting to suggest when things go right they do so in impressive fashion.
The sequence of Liverpool's last six league victories since December 22 is 4-0, 3-0, 3-0, 5-0, 5-0, 4-0.
"I think it's coming together. We've had some good results of late. We're finishing teams off and defending ever so well," said Downing.
"Pepe Reina made some great saves (against Wigan) and if we do our bit at the other end of the field, we've got a chance.
"It's all coming together. We've got 10 games to go and we've got to keep winning games."
Liverpool's total of 53 goals from 28 matches is their second best at this stage of a Premier League season - bettered only by the 56 scored in 1995-96 - but Rodgers is not getting carried away.
He can see the progress being made but knows Champions League qualification this season remains some way off for his seventh-placed side at this point.
"We are not thinking about that. All we are looking at this moment in time is the next game - that is what we spoke about in the last few days," said the Reds boss.
"We have played well a lot of this season, what has got us behind has been individual errors.
"Yesterday I could see the graft the players are doing on the training field being taken onto the pitch.
"There was a real focus and concentration in our performance.
"They are being very accustomed to how we are asking them to press as a team high up the pitch and when to drop in and build a block and control the game. That was wonderful for us.
"We have to give great credit to the players because it is very easy, especially after getting knocked out of the Europa League, to feel sorry for ourselves.
"We will focus on finishing as high as we can and look to finish the season strongly."
Suarez stole the show again with a hat-trick which lifted him to 21 league goals for the season and past Manchester United's Robin van Persie as the country's leading scorer.
"It was another great performance," added Downing.
"There were all types of different goals for his hat-trick.
"At the minute he's on fire and if you have a striker like that in your team, you always have a chance of winning games.
"We played some good football. Obviously getting the early goal helped.
"It settled us down and on a tricky pitch, I thought we dominated for large periods of the game."
Of his rare header he said: "It was nice to get a goal, no matter how they come.
"The manager said to me to try to get in a position to score goals and if you get in the box, you have a chance.
"It was a great ball from Philippe and I was able to make a good contact on it to get it past the keeper."
Downing's goal set the tone for what was probably Liverpool's most comfortable victory of the season.
Coutinho's perfectly-weighted pass put Suarez through for a clever finish in the 18th minute and the Uruguayan then scored a deflected free-kick with 34 minutes gone and Wigan in disarray.
Four minutes into the second half right-back Glen Johnson charged 40 yards downfield before releasing Suarez to complete his treble with an angled shot through the legs of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.